Unwrapped

Hello all! Happy New Year! For at least the next three months, I will be writing about a set of characters from Port Shadeau Washington. They are a settlement of Arkane people that blend into the Seattle cityscape seamlessly. Ailee Creed is the main character, at least for the next three months. Come join me on this ride and welcome to the 2021 version of Short Story Saturday!

Ailee sat down on her couch and stared at the list in front of her. She had a few days before she started work, and she planned to make the most of it. It was a brand new year and she wasn’t going to waste it wondering why Gideon had gone silent just before Christmas. He wasn’t returning her phone calls, or her texts, and now that the new year had rung, and his gifts still sat under the tree. She shook her head to clear the thoughts of the past from her mind and focused on her list. She wanted to go hiking, see the city a little more, and relax before Monday. The long holiday weekend would lend nicely to being able to get lost in a couple of crowds, blend in with the Jejune and get lost in Port Shadeau.

    Port Shadeau was one of the oldest Arkane settlements on the West Coast.  It was built around Jejune and was now the oldest part of Seattle.  It had been like that forever, the Jejune and the Arkane blending seamlessly with the Jejune none the wiser.  It worked out for everyone involved and Ailee was happy to finally be here.  After her father had died, she’d had to get out of Cheveaux.  Gideon hadn’t understood, they’d argued about it, but in the end, she’d moved anyway.  

Just before Christmas she’d moved into a small studio apartment above a bookstore named the Librarie.  Ailee had felt at home there immediately.  A few days after moving in, she’d found out that the little cafe in the bookstore was hiring, and she’d jumped at the chance to work there. 

    Her life was finally falling into place.  As best as it could at least.  She’d stayed up late the night before to ring in the new year with a glass of plum wine and then gone to bed.  Now it was time for adventure.  Ailee grabbed her list and shoved it into the pocket of her bag before setting off into the city.  

    She spent hours exploring the city and when she fell into bed that night, she was excited to go hiking the next day.  She was planning to take her camera and was hoping to get some good shots she could frame and put on her wall behind her table.  Before she fell asleep she texted Gideon, just on the off chance that he’d respond. 

Ailee: I hope that you had a good day.  Just wanted to tell you that I love you and I miss you. 

She waited a few minutes and when there was no response, she plugged her phone in and rolled over to go to sleep.  She woke up the next morning and drank her cup of coffee before she left to go hiking.  She drove a little outside the city and the recent snowfall made the couple hour hike beautiful.  She got some good shots and was able, thanks to her tripod, to get some really good pictures of herself while playing in the snow.  She went back into town as the sun was setting.  She found a great place to eat dinner and managed to catch a couple of shots on her camera of herself watching snowflakes fall under a streetlight. One of the things she hoped to find was a competent person to help with her amateur photography.  

When she got home that night, she took a hot shower and then made herself a cup of hot cocoa.  While she waited for the milk to boil, she sent another text to Gideon, just to see if he’d respond.  She curled up on the couch and read for a little while.  Once her cocoa was gone, she carried the cup to the kitchen just to have an excuse to stretch her legs.  She was irritated that she still hadn’t heard from Gideon.  She wanted to believe that she’d given up on the whole idea of their relationship, but it wasn’t so easy to let the last couple of years go.  They’d been fine, everything was great up until her dad had died unexpectedly.  Things had been rough and when she felt like she wanted a change of scenery, she’d asked him to come with her.  He hadn’t wanted anything to change. Ailee had needed nothing but change. 

Walking back toward the couch, she passed the Christmas tree she planned to take down the next morning.  She stopped and looked down at the gifts still sitting under the tree.  She had spent so much time shopping for the right gifts.  Carefully wrapping them with tags and ribbon.  Making sure that they conveyed every bit of love and devotion she had for him.  She paced away from the tree and toward the couch and tossed her phone down onto it.  She turned back around and looked at the tree again.  She bit her lip and considered what to do.  

All at once the overwhelming anger she thought she was over consumed her again.  She took a couple of steps and snatched the largest gift from under the tree.  In a couple of steps she stood before the small fireplace in her apartment and tossed the gift into it.  She felt satisfaction in watching it burn.  She turned around and grabbed the two smaller gifts and tossed them into the fire as well before she sat down on the couch and watched them burn.  Once they had burned out, she stared at the fire a little longer.  Then she went over and did her best to put the fire out for the night. 

Once it was done, she crawled into bed and slept better than she had since Gideon had stopped responding to her.  The next morning, over coffee, she planned out how she was going to pack up her Christmas decorations.  She spent most of the morning doing just that and once she was finished she was ready to relax.  Needing a change of scenery, she went downstairs to the bookstore to wander around a little bit.  She ended up picking up a couple of new books and felt like wandering a bit more.  She liked the atmosphere in the bookstore and couldn’t wait to start working.  

When she got to the counter she smiled and had a great interaction with the girl behind the counter.  She seemed to be about her age and she hoped maybe they’d get along once she actually started working.  With her new purchases in hand, she went back upstairs. Later that evening she went out for a walk.  She had located the four closest Drift points in case she wanted to go anywhere, and she enjoyed walking around the back alleys and places off the main streets.  It might seem a little dangerous to some, but this was Port Shadeau, crime was dealt with differently here.  There wasn’t much of it, as you never quite knew what you were going to walk into.  Once it was fully dark, she wandered back to her apartment.  

Work the next day was a crash course in managing the small, but busy cafe.  By lunch time she wasn’t sure she was going to remember everything, but the customers were friendly and the other employees were great too.  The former manager had been Jejune, and the mostly Arkane staff was happy to finally have an Arkane manager who would understand their unique circumstances a little better.  One of the employees had just completed her Initiate the spring before and was still a little jumpy if something got dropped.  Another of the part-time barista’s had a sister getting ready for Initiate in a couple of weeks.  She was a nervous wreck and Ailee knew she’d have to see how she was feeling closer to the time to know if she could handle the counter or if she needed to just be wiping off the small tables and helping out with the bookstore cleanup as well.  

Around lunch time she was introduced to the young dark haired woman from the bookstore that had rang her up the day before.  Marlowe Lark was about her age and lived upstairs in the other loft apartment with her husband, Wilder.  Marlowe managed the bookstore and loved her job.  After they both left for the day, Marlowe invited her to go out and get some dinner, apparently her husband was working late. 

“So how do you like Port Shadeau so far?” Marlowe asked her as they walked down the street toward Marlowe’s favorite little restaurant.  

“I like it so far.  It’s been just me for a couple of weeks so it’s kind of nice to have someone else to talk to.” Ailee told her with a small smile. 

“I wish I’d known sooner, we could have hung out for New Years.  Wild had to work that night so it was just me and a couple of friends.  I could have introduced you.” She said with a smile, as she tucked her dark hair behind her ear. 

“That would have been nice.  So how long have you lived here?” 

“A couple of years.  We like it here.  We moved a bit after Initiate, while Wilder was climbing through the ranks.  But we’ve been here long enough that we think we might stay.” 

“What does he do?” 

“He’s a Diffuser.  Only, they don’t have a Diffuser station here, so they work with the regular fire fighters.  The local house is mostly Arkane, but there is at least two in every house in the city.” 

“That’s cool.  Port Shadeau is so different from almost every other place.  It’s so weird to mix so easily with the Jejune, it almost makes me wonder why we have to hide at all.” 

“I get that, but look what happened to the Vampires when they came out a hundred years ago.  There are so many restrictions for them, I’m surprised there isn’t a national registry for them.” 

“For all we know there might be one, but it’s so tightly controlled by the Crones and Sages that the Jejune will never hear about it.” 

“True. It’s probably for the best.  I knew a Vampire once, I can’t imagine having to go through that stuff.” 

“Yeah, me neither. What if we had to register every time we moved? It would get taxing.”

“True.” Marlowe nodded as she held the door open for Ailee. 

They had a nice meal and the conversation flowed easily between them as they walked back toward home. They said goodnight and Ailee was excited to see her again the next day. It might seem insignificant, but she finally felt like she’d made a friend. For the first time since she’d moved there, she felt justified in the decision. She had made a friend and was hopeful to make more.

The City Lights

Once upon a time I decided that for Short Story Saturday I was going to follow a list of prompts. One of these prompts that actually turned out great, was writing a scene with no dialogue. This is especially challenging for me as I am great at dialogue. I love writing dialogue. One of my favorite parts of any story is the interactions between two characters. When I wrote this, it was difficult to write something and convey an emotion without dialogue for me. I have grown as an author since then, but this stood out to me as something good. I hope that you enjoy this flashback to me as a writer in 2014. Enjoy.

Christian sat in the dimly lit living room of his top floor loft, gazing out at the city through the floor to ceiling picture window.  He rolled the liquid in his cup back and forth before bringing it to his lips and feeling the familiar burn of the whiskey slide down his throat.  He may be located in the center of the city, a city currently bustling with Saturday night life, but he felt as alone as the ice cubes in the now empty glass.

Feeling the need to get up and move, he stood and crossed the room in quick deliberate strides.  After refilling his glass, he paced back across the large room.  Agitation was crawling under his skin and taking root; he didn’t understand it.  Normally he was poised, self-assured, calculating, but when it came to her, he was lost.  It was as if he was a fifteen year old boy all over again.  He was certain this woman would be his undoing.

It wasn’t as if he’d never been in love before, but this was entirely new.  They’d been good friends for two years now.  Not once had she effected him like she had the last three months.  She was driving him insane.  He was no longer the same confident being he had been in her presence.  No; now he felt as if he needed to do anything and everything to win her over.  But every time he tried, he ended up looking like a bumbling fool; too distracted by her eyes, her hair, and her mouth.  Oh God, her mouth, how he longed for her lips to be pressed against his own…

Christian stopped the though in its tracks and downed his drink in one swallow.  He had to do something to stop this madness.  His sudden inability to communicate the smallest of things to her was the cause of his agitation, that was certain.  Wasn’t it? He shook his head in dismay; there he was, second guessing himself again.  It seemed to occur more and more these days, and there was only one cause.

Christian shook his head, set his glass in the sink and took himself to bed, before he managed to lose all of his self respect.

Across town, Azaria laid in bed wondering what on earth had happened to Christian lately.  They used to hang out a couple of nights a week with co-workers and friends.  Grabbing a bite to eat, watching a movie, a drink on Friday evening….now she barely saw him.  When she did she him, it was different.  Now, instead of long conversations on whatever subject of interest, he was quiet, standoffish, and barely said more than a couple of words at a time.  Something had changed between them, she longed to know what was wrong.

Should she tell him that she missed the old him? The confident, funny, intelligent man she’d fallen for when they first met?  Had he finally found out how she felt?  Could that be the reason for the distance between them? No, she dismissed the thought before fluffing her pillow and wrapping up a little tighter in her blankets.

Whatever Christian’s problem with her was, it was probably better in the long run if she just outright asked him about it.  So with a resolve to do just that the very next time she saw him, she closed her eyes and let sleep take her.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that! As always, please enjoy your weekend and be safe out there!

Waiting…

So, this is something that I wrote seven years ago, and if you follow my personal blog at all, you’ll recognize it from there. I’m cross-posting it here because at this moment in time I just do not have the time to write something new for Short Story Saturday. So, for the next few weeks, I will be cross-posting the short stories I’ve already written here. That will give me a little bit of time to get something new to you guys. What with figuring out online school for the kiddos, the launch of my whole writer platform, editing Noctivagus, writing No Ordinary Love, and did I mention that we’re getting ready for Christmas already at work? Yeah, so that’s a thing. I’m just swamped. So please enjoy this short story and tune in next week for another one! Thanks!

I took my order from the clerk at the counter and looked around for somewhere to sit while I waited.  I finally found a small table nestled against the windows and surrounded by writers and college students typing furiously on their laptops.  Worry creased their brows as impending deadlines loomed in the future.

I unwrapped my scarf and sipped my tea while I gazed out at the bustling street. People rushing to their next destination, not bothering to see the beauty around them.  The leaves on the well-manicured trees were aflame with autumn oranges, yellows, and reds.  They had only begun to turn and the colors were still vivid. Soon they’d turn brown, die, and fall off, and then the snows would come. I mentally shook myself and took another drink, I needed to keep the dark thoughts away.

The familiar sounds of espresso machines, milk being steamed, and the smell of coffee beans being roasted permeated the small shop and brought comfort to the warmth.  The consistent clacking of keys on keyboards added to overall ambiance which helped to ease my apprehension.  I let it wrap around me like a cocoon of warmth.  Only then did I allow myself to think of him.

It had been three weeks since I’d seen him, and so much had happened in that time.  Absently I sipped my tea while I thought of his smile, his eyes, his sense of humor, and mostly how much I missed him.  A brief glance at the clock on the wall told me that he was late.  Maybe he wouldn’t come at all.  He had only reluctantly agreed to meet me here.

With each passing minute, the sound of the ticking clock grew louder. It was like an intrusion on the brief moment of peace I’d found.  After a few more minutes, or was it seconds, the clacking keyboards joined the clock in sounding the panic that I’d been stood up.  Everywhere I looked, people were staring at me.  The pompous writers peering over their screens.  The college students thinking how old and washed up I must be, sitting here on my own.  The clock was getting louder.  My anxiety pushing my heart to an accelerated pace.  My pulse echoing the ticking, and accentuating the conversations in the far corners of the shop.  Why was everyone staring?  Maybe I should go, make it seem as though I was only settling down a moment before I went off again.  Save myself the humiliation of him not…

“Sorry I’m late.” he said.  His voice breaking into my once warm cocoon that had become a prison.  

At that moment everything stopped.  All I could hear was the rush of blood in my ears and my shallow breaths.  He was standing beside the table, smiling down at me.  In his hand he held a bouquet of sunflowers and his own cup.

-end-

Well, I hope you enjoyed that. I remember when I wrote it, I wasn’t sure who the characters were, what was happening in their lives or anything else. I’m still not certain I know seven years on. Oh well, they pop up from time to time in my Short Story Saturday submissions, so maybe we can find out together. Well, I’m off, please enjoy what’s left of your weekend my dears!